British airports threatened by strike chaos

12th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's airports face chaos in the busy late summer period after workers voted overwhelmingly on Thursday for strike action which could shut down London's Heathrow and five other British airports.

The vote was held after the Unite union rejected a one percent pay rise from airports operator BAA.

The union had urged firefighters, engineers and support and security staff to vote for industrial action over what it called the Spanish-owned company's "measly" pay offer.

Any action will affect not only Heathrow -- the world's busiest international airport -- but also Stansted and Southampton in England, and Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh airports in Scotland.

Unite national officer Brendan Gold said members had given a "clear mandate" to strike despite a turnout of barely 50 percent, but he denied the union was showing contempt for holidaymakers.

"The advice we would give to passengers is to put pressure on the company to come to reach a negotiated settlement," he told a news conference.

The dates of the walkout have not yet been decided, but the union did not deny that it intended to target the holiday weekend of August 28-30, one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

BAA said it hoped the union would negotiate a solution to prevent the strike from going ahead.

A BAA spokesman said: "We regret the uncertainty this vote has already caused our passengers and airline customers.

"We hope that the union will engage with us quickly to conclude an agreement.

"Fewer than half of those people eligible to vote have done so and we do not believe this result provides a clear mandate for strike action."

Before the ballot result was revealed, Prime Minister David Cameron warned a strike would achieve nothing "apart from damage".

© 2010 AFP

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